Brothers' brand is Dunedin down to a tee

Hamish and Joe Palmer are living the life as entrepreneurs and students. They are pictured here wearing their own fashion label. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Hamish and Joe Palmer are living the life as entrepreneurs and students. They are pictured here wearing their own fashion label. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Joe and Hamish Palmer are aiming to live the dream with their new business. Sophie Hall finds out why they are so successful with their fellow students.

Brothers Joe and Hamish Palmer aren't your typical University of Otago students. They juggle study, student life and a passion for surfing with their emerging clothing business.

Launched in September 2017, their company, Palmah, is Dunedin born and based. It specialises in bright and playful embroidered basics such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps.

The Palmah brand has fast attained cult status on the streets of Dunedin and its online sales are growing, nationally and internationally.

Joe (22), a commerce student, and Hamish (20), studying psychology and anthropology, credit their Dunedin experience for the birth of Palmah.

The pair, who came to the University of Otago from Kerikeri, say the Palmah brand is all about fun.

''Without Dunedin, Palmah wouldn't exist. It's a melting pot of unreal humans, ideas and cultures and everyone is out to have a good time. It's made Palmah what it is.

The brothers use their flatmates and friends to ‘‘test’’ out their clothing designs. Photos: Supplied
The brothers use their flatmates and friends to ‘‘test’’ out their clothing designs. Photos: Supplied
''I'd like to think Palmah has a similar feeling to Dunedin or shows the world Dunedin, in a sense.

''We want Palmah to not just be a clothing company but more of an experience where we're showcasing good times, because that's all it is.

''I wanted to bring a bit more humour to clothing in general. It's just stuff that I'd be keen to wear,'' Joe said.

The label was born at last year's Falls Music festival in Byron Bay, New South Wales.

Joe and a friend painted their own rainbow T-shirts and were inundated with compliments from strangers.

''We ended up having the most ridiculously fun time. We came back to New Zealand, got a handbook and just started drawing things out.''

The pair drew some ''random ideas'' based on visual puns that sprang to mind. The early designs were then put through the ''flatmate process'' to get ''ridiculed and tested'' by their flatmates, Joe says.

''Eventually, if it's somewhat successful'' it goes to the print room, gets digitised and then embroidered - all in Dunedin.

Flatmates and friends are then recruited to model the garments for marketing and selling online.

''I always have shirts and my camera in the van, much to the boys' dismay. The amount of unforeseen modelling shoots they've had to do is pretty funny.''

Although the shirts are originally from the US, Palmah is in the process of sourcing hemp shirts for future lines.

''I'm pretty excited about it - I'm keen to make it a more sustainable, ethical company.''

Palmah recently launched a new line called ''New Winter Buzz'' and two designs sold out on their first day.

''It's pretty unbelievable. It's still a surreal experience to see a person you've never seen before wearing your tee. It's cool!''

''We're incredibly lucky that somehow people have been kind enough to get behind Palmah and support it. I've got to give a big thank-you to my close friends and Dunedin in general.

''It shows how Dunedin is a big family and such a community.''

Despite Palmah's growing success, the brothers still deliver all Dunedin orders by hand.

''I like to meet our customers face to face. It's cool to see them as a person, not just an order and to get to know them and say hi.''

The boys see Palmah as more than just a label and are keen to give the shirts off their backs to make a difference in the community.

Recently, they released a line of penguin-themed shirts and hosted a Palmah Penguin Party event to raise money for the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital.

''We're definitely keen to give back, especially to a place like Dunedin which has given so much to us.''

Palmah also sells online and at markets and festivals throughout New Zealand, and is looking to expand to Australia next year.

''For now I'm living it pretty day by day. I'd love it to keep expanding and keep growing but I want it to remain a small, fun little company where me and Mush (Hamish) can make all the shots - but be big enough to just live a fun, happy life. That's the dream.''

As for working with his brother, Joe insists it really is all family fun.

''I'd say he's one of my best mates. We've had little niggles, but no family fall-outs.

''Growing up we weren't great mates at all. I'd find ways to wind him up.

''But now it's really great!''

-By Sophie Hall

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